Someone to Know: Marty Jandura
Ranger Marty Jandura is as much at home instructing fishing on the water as he is on preserve land.
Anyone who’s participated in a Forest Preserve District fishing program may very well have learned tips and techniques alongside ranger Marty Jandura.
Marty has been with the agency since 2001, when he accepted a summer internship after graduating from Illinois State University with a degree in parks and recreation administration. He was hired full time that fall and has been a part of the East Division ranger team ever since. This month he shares some tips on his favorite pastime — fishing in DuPage forest preserves — and some of the lessons he's learned on the job.
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Without question, a night owl. My passion for fishing for flathead catfish makes getting out under the cloak of darkness a requirement. I also think interesting things happen at night. The sounds of humans quiet down, and you’re left with chirping crickets, hooting owls and yelping coyotes, all under the glow of the moon and clouds that illuminate the night. There’s just something about nighttime that makes you feel different.
Share some suggestions for great fishing spots in the forest preserves. The thing about anglers is that we like to keep our cards close to the vest! Our secret spots are exactly that and shared with only the closest of friends. As rangers, though, our goal is to help people enjoy the outdoors.
When people are learning to fish, I tell them to think about what they want to get out of it before buying a bunch of equipment. Do you want to let out a line and sit in a chair reading a book, or do you want to fish actively moving often? Would you rather catch a lot of small fish, or are you content not catching much while waiting for a bigger fish? Do you need easy access to the water, or do you want to go off the beaten path? These are also things I ask before I start giving recommendations on where to fish. When you have an idea of what sounds fun, it’s easier to create successful fishing adventures. Scattershot approaches are rarely as enjoyable.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever had to deal with on the job? As rangers, we handle everything from concerned neighbors to distressed animals to wildfires, so it’s hard to pin down just one thing. But I would say wildfires are the most stressful yet awe-inspiring situations we deal with because conditions can change quickly and you must be on your toes. I remember one day in particular early in my career when we were wrapping up a prescription burn. A few of us were called to respond to a wildfire and then another and then a third. Fortunately, they were small-scale fires that were relatively easy to control, but it turned out to be a crazy day nonetheless.
Tell us about a tool you use regularly at work. Prescription burn gear is always interesting, but I think the tool that’s most unique to our position is the water pumper we have on the back of each truck. Many visitors think we use them to spray for ticks and mosquitos and are surprised to hear it’s a mobile source of water. A lawnmower-sized engine powers a pump that pressurizes the water into the hose. We use them for everything from fighting fires to cleaning and watering. I've even used them to fill up buckets for picnickers on hot summer days to use with their water guns!
What’s a lesson you’ve learned about nature? There’s more to nature than what swims in the water and bites the end of my line.
When I started as a ranger, I knew little about our local environment, but I knew I enjoyed being outdoors. When you work at a place that has so many passionate, knowledgeable people, you can't help but learn. Slowly but surely I started picking up information on flora and fauna that I had no idea even existed here. I also learned how intricate relationships are between species and how quickly and easily humans can throw off that balance.
I recommend that everyone sign up for at least one Forest Preserve District educational or recreational program. You may be surprised at what you don’t know and may become more passionate about nature when you see it presented by someone who really loves it.
What lasting effect do you think your efforts will have on the District? I take pride in all the work I do, but I’m especially proud of the memorable experiences I can offer people. If you give people positive experiences, they’re more likely to come back to a forest preserve and appreciate the natural world. For me, that type of work has focused on fishing.
I was presenting a program on carp at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve, and a father and son approached me to say they’d been to the same program years earlier, one of the first I’d lead. They enjoyed it so much they’d started fishing more with what they learned. The son said he was interested in helping with our programs, and through that meeting the Volunteer Ranger Experience program was born. Today we have many volunteers, and I'm proud to have been a part of the group’s inception. There are too many parts to the whole for me to take too much credit, but I think it shows how small, positive experiences can have big effects on the District’s efforts.
Ranger Marty Jandura teaches kids how to ice fish at the "Wonders of Winter."